Organizations* : TAPA
A representational oil painter and sculptor of the contemporary West, Robert Summers was born in Glen Rose, Texas, where he still lives. “I paint the people and things I know,” he observes, “I find it hard to paint anything unless it relates to my own experience. Occasionally I’ll read some historical story and try to recreate that moment, but I have to be careful to make the costumes and weapons correct. Cattle ranching may be a vanishing way of life, but the basic principles are still much the same as they were a hundred years ago.”
Of his youth, Summers says, “I was brought up in a small country town, among normal people, and I intend to keep it that way.” The son of a judge, who was also a Frederic Remington buff, Summers was encouraged when he began drawing as a boy. After he finished high school, he worked for a construction crew, took correspondence courses in art, and was then employed as a technical illustrator. “That was good training,” he once pointed out. “We had to take blueprints and try to picture what the finished object would look like.”
In 1964, a cousin paid Summers’ living expenses for a year so he could paint full time. “Things got pretty tight,” he recalls, “and if we hadn’t lived in a small town, it would have been impossible.” However, two years later, he was exhibiting successfully. In 1969, he sold twelve paintings at a solo show in Odessa, Texas, and in 1973 his work was reproduced by the Franklin Mint. Summers was the official Texas Bicentennial Artist in 1976, and in 1979, he sold out at the Western Heritage Show in Houston. The following year he was commissioned to model a heroic memorial of John Wayne.
Now, Summers has created numerous public art projects, including the world’s largest bronze for the Pioneer Plaza at the Dallas Convention Center in Dallas, Texas. The piece, a cattle drive, includes seventy longhorn steers herded by three riders on horseback. Completed in the mid 1990’s, it took him two and a half years.